The Ferrari driver had qualified third at Barcelona and was right behind Bottas after the start as they came out of the opening sequence of corners.
However, he seized a brilliant opportunity to go around the outside of Bottas at Turn 3 in a move that was reminiscent of a similar effort that Fernando Alonso pulled off on Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton in 2013.
But rather than Leclerc having pre-planned his manoeuvre, Leclerc said it was a spur of the moment thing after he went out wide in a bid to find some clear air.
“It wasn’t planned,” explained Leclerc. “I just saw the opportunity at the time when I was in the car, and I just went for it. It seemed to work fine.
“I was trying to find a different line to Valtteri , because Valtteri was following Lewis. And when you are obviously behind the car, you’re losing so much downforce that I was just trying to get offline.
“Then, as soon as I saw that I had quite a bit of grip on the outside, I just went for the overtake and it worked out pretty well.”
Leclerc also revealed to Sky TV that he had never previously seen the Alonso move when watching previous Spanish GPs, so was unaware that it had been done before.
“Everyone is telling me [about] that but actually, I don’t even know what you’re talking about,” he said. “I have never seen this overtake.
“Was it at the start for him too? Because I think it’s a lot more difficult during the race to be honest with all the marbles around the outside. So I went for the easy solution on lap one.”
Bottas himself said that he had been caught out by Hamilton and Max Verstappen battling ahead of him, and hadn’t noticed Leclerc go for the pass.
“To be honest, I didn’t see Charles in Turn 3,” said the Mercedes driver. “Once I saw him, on the outside going a lot quicker than me, then it was too late. So, yeah, need to review that.
“In Turn 1, 2, there’s only one line, and you can’t do much. I knew that I could keep my place there. But then in Turn 3, I was really trying to follow closely Lewis on the inside and had no chance that Charles was so close. He managed to get good grip and a line from the outside.”
Leclerc held on to third position throughout the opening stint, but came home fourth after Bottas was able to jump him and take the final podium spot during the pit stop phase.